What is it like to be a standout player, the team president, the team captain and the “team mom,” and on top of that go to school, while trying to have a bit of a social life? One person who fulfills all these roles and remains sane is senior center Jen Gunlikson.
“My sophomore year I assumed the captain and the president position,” Gunlikson said. “So, that’s when I really started getting involved.”
But in reality, she was involved her freshman year.
“I started as a freshman not knowing anyone and trying to fit in,” Gunlikson said. “I was lucky and got accepted right away.”
That, of course, is no surprise to those who know her. The easygoing, constantly smiling (unless it’s time for the game face) senior has done more than receive acceptance. She has taken the CSU women’s lacrosse team to new heights.
“She reminds me of what I used to be,” said head coach Jaime Whitlock. “She leads by example.”
Gunlikson is on the U.S. Lacrosse women’s division board of governors and a member of the Women’s Division Intercollegiate Athletics (WDIA) rankings committee. In addition, she had a leading hand in the creation of the Rocky Mountain Women’s Lacrosse League (RMWLL), the league in which that CSU plays and features teams like CU, Air Force and BYU.
“I basically contacted all of the teams in the region and had this idea,” Gunlikson said. “We got recognized and got sanctioned. Now, whoever wins the league gets a bid to nationals.”
This year’s tournament starts Saturday and will be played right here in Fort Collins. For Gunlikson and the other Rams, who currently own the No. 1 club ranking in the nation, this weekend is what it is all about.
“We’ve never been in this position before,” Gunlikson said. “This being my last year, and falling just short last year, it is something that not only I, but we, need to fulfill.”
For CSU’s women’s lacrosse team, however, perhaps it is the full-fledged investment of players like Gunlikson that has boosted the Rams to pedestal status.
“We’ve improved tremendously from being unranked to being one of the top teams in the nation in just three years,” Gunlikson said. “I love my team. We have the best dynamics of any team I’ve ever been on.”
Being humble as an all star is what Gunlikson is really all about, though.
In 2004, as a sophomore, Gunlikson was a second team all-American. Then in 2005, as a junior, she literally performed at the highest possible level. Not only was she named a first team all-American, but she also was the WDIA national player of the year. Yet still, it’s about being a good teammate first.
“We all hang out and help each other,” Gunlikson said. “When someone is down, there is always someone else there to pick them up.”
Gunlikson is quick to pass out compliments to her coach over herself as well.
“Jamie (Whitlock) brings a little east coast vibe to our team,” Gunlikson said. “She played at Rutgers, so she brings a good attack to us.”
But on the sidelines it is evident that Whitlock relies on Gunlikson during the game.
“Jen is the heart of the team and deserves credit for why the team has become recognized,” Whitlock said. “I hope she goes on to become a coach someday.”
So does the face of CSU women’s lacrosse have any regrets about her time here at CSU?
“There’s nothing I would change,” said Gunlikson. “From the beginning I have put everything I could into the team. It’s been fun.”